Friday, 30 September 2011

Book review : Death Sentence - Mikkel Birkegaard


As I told you a while ago (here), I'm taking part in the Transworld Reading Challenge. After reading the brilliant novel The Sandalwood Tree (which I reviewed here), I picked a very different style of book for my second read and chose Mikkel Birkegaard's Death Sentence. (If any of you have read it, please link through to your review in the comments - I'd love to compare notes.)

I love crime fiction and thought the plot sounded very original, not to mention full of suspense. The main character, Frank Fons, is a successful crime writer, producing not so much pulp fiction as beat-them-to-a-pulp fiction. His trademark is his brutal, graphic portrayal of hideous torture and murder, so he is horrified when people close to him start turning up murdered in reenactments of killings from his novels.

We become caught up in a gruesome game of cat and mouse, with the killer and writer both toying with each other and the horrifically mutilated body count rising by the minute. Frank is an enigmatic character so it's hard to work out if he's a good guy or a bad guy. His ex-wife seems to think of him as a dangerous, mentally-unbalanced possible fantasist so we don't even know if we should count him as a suspect.

I read a lot of crime fiction and don't consider myself as squeamish at all but I did feel disturbed by the sheer violence of some of the crimes and the graphic detail that the writer (Fons but also Birkegaard) goes into. To give you just one example, but there are many more - when I first read the line "raped with a book", my initial instinct was that it was impossible. Reading the gory, detailed description of the body when this crime was reenacted left me feeling sickened. The final scenes of the novel, while certainly imaginative and powerful, were just too full-on for me and I actually skipped the last few pages. For me, the genre tips from crime fiction over into horror, which I feel uncomfortable with.

The lack of definite ending left me feeling unsatisfied too, and not just because I'd skipped over the final bloodthirsty scenes. I was left with many unanswered questions which irritated me after having put in the effort of sitting squirming through so many painfully grotesque scenes of torture and violence to get there.

It's not for the faint-hearted but if you imagine a crime novel written by the likes of Stephen King, you'll know more or less what to expect.

star rating : 3/5

‘I’m part of the Transworld Book Group!’
RRP : £7.99

Paperback: 384 pages
Publisher: Black Swan (15 Sep 2011)
Language English
ISBN-10: 0552776807
ISBN-13: 978-0552776806



Other reviews you may be interested in :


A colouring sheet for your little Humf fans to enjoy !


A little something for the weekend that might keep your little cherubs busy for a few minutes ! If you like the look of the DVD, you can check out our review here too !

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Giveaway #124 - WIN SPOOKY BUDDIES on DVD - closed - winner @cachexia1


To celebrate the release of Spooky Buddies on Disney DVD from 10 October, we’re giving away a copy of this great film to a lucky winner!

The quintet of irresistible talking puppies, Disney’s lovable “Buddies,” are back for a ghoulish good time in a fantastic all-new Halloween-themed adventure, Spooky Buddies.

Overflowing with trick-or-treat action, the ‘Buddies’ films are favourites of families and kids of all ages. Spooky Buddies continues the overwhelmingly popular franchise featuring the adorable talking puppies, with action, laughs and fast-paced adventure. In this latest movie caper, the lovable canine clan find themselves in a mysterious mansion, with no less than the fate of the world hanging in the balance as they must stop a dastardly warlock from his plans for world destruction.

Packed with fun, excitement and a bag full of bonus features, Spooky Buddies is a spooktacular feature-length movie that treats audiences to a celebration of friendship and teamwork for the whole family.



Spooky Buddies is available on Disney DVD from 10 October 2011, order your copy today on Amazon


Also available 10 October is the Buddies Pack which includes all 5 adventures; Air Buddies, Space Buddies, Santa Buddies, Snow Buddies and Spooky Buddies.



To be in with a chance of winning this wonderful prize, just leave me a comment with a way of contacting you (email or twitter) and answer the following question:

Which of the following is not a film from the Buddies series?

a) Spooky Buddies

b) Air Buddies

c) Mountain Buddies

Bonus entries :
You can do any or all of the following for bonus entries - just make sure you leave me one comment per entry so that they're all counted !

(1) Follow my blog with Google Friends Connect over on the right

(2) I love reading your comments so leave me some extra comments on my other blogposts (maximum 5 - other giveaways don't count !) and I'll give you a bonus entry for each one. Just remember to leave me a comment here each time to tell me you've done so.


(3) Follow me on twitter (@cherylp59) and tweet about my comp - this is now dead easy if you click on the tweet button on the right-hand side bar. Feel free to shorten if necessary, or you can make up your own tweet. Make sure you copy in @cherylp59 so I can track this.


(4) Subscribe to my blog by email (near the top of the right-hand sidebar) so that all the new posts pop into your inbox in a handy digest every morning


(5) I've created a facebook page for Madhouse Family Reviews so I'd love for you to become a follower on there too - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Madhouse-Family-Reviews/144910798898626

UK only. Closing date : 17/10/11

Other current giveaways you may be interested in :

Brits go bonkers for bathtime !

Some light-hearted reading to ease into the weekend ! Who would you choose to have a bath with ? I have to say, I probably wouldn't have chosen someone from the list of top answers !

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BATHING BRITAIN

– Half of Brits use the bath to spend quality time with their partner –


Winter may be just around the corner, but romance is hotting up in the bathroom with 47 per cent of Brits admitting to bathing with their partners on a regular basis to spend quality (bath) time together.


The study by Radox, Britain’s favourite washing and bathing brand, reveals that Brits spend 40 minutes in the bath on average, equating to over 34 hours a year soaking and 16 whole weeks in a lifetime – but it is not necessarily their other halves that Brits want to jump in the tub with.



The research revealed that the nation’s ladies are looking for a little posh totty in their tub with Prince Harry (13 per cent) topping the list of the most desirable bath time buddies, closely followed by the bubbly Russell Brand (12 per cent).


The Only Way Is Essex bad boy Mark Wright and Harry Potter’s wand-wielding Daniel Radcliffe came in joint third (nine per cent respectively) followed by more bath time royalty – Prince William (eight per cent).


Men on the other hand would like to soap-up and enjoy fireworks with Brand’s other half Katy Perry (15 per cent) and housewives’ favourite Holly Willoughby (13 per cent). The research found that nine per cent of men would also like to lather-up with JLo (and her voluptuous bath time bod) while eight and five per cent respectively went for the more streamline Kate Middleton and outrageous Lady Gaga – who admits to going to bed without taking her make-up and clothes off, let alone bathed.

The celebs we’d most like to share a bath with

Men

Prince Harry (12.5%)
Russell Brand (12%)
Mark Wright (TOWIE) (9%)
Daniel Radcliffe (8.5%)
Prince William (8%)
Women

Katy Perry (15%)
Holly Willoughby (13%)
Jennifer Lopez (8.5%)
Kate Middleton (8%)
Lady Gaga (5%)

However, not everyone is desperate to share their bath, with three-quarters of Brits (75 per cent) admitting to using it as a solace to relax and have “me time”.


The study also found that Brits’ bath time is most likely to be in the afternoon or later with a quarter favouring this time for their plunge (25 per cent). One in 12 Brits (8 per cent) however admit to kick starting their day with a soak and 16 per cent claim to jump in the minute they are home from the daily grind.

Britain’s biggest bathers (average time spent in the bath):

1. Belfast (51 minutes, 42 seconds)
2. Glasgow (43 minutes, 31 seconds)
3. Birmingham (41 minutes, 43 seconds)
4. Manchester (41 minutes, 13 seconds)
5. Newcastle (41 minutes, 8 seconds)

Cassie Shuttlewood, brand manager at Radox, comments:
“It is good to see the bath is still popular, especially for catching up with the other half! For many it is a great excuse to light a candle, pour a glass of wine and unwind from the day – and for others, a chance to imagine a rather royal bath time buddy.”



Radox has created a new bath time treat to help the nation enjoy baths even more. Bath Smoothies has taken the natural ingredients found in Radox Shower Smoothies and blended them into a luxurious, smooth cream designed to deliver a sumptuous bathing experience that will leave you smelling good enough to eat.


(I'll be reviewing Radox Bath Smoothies shortly so watch this space for a review.)

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Own a colour and help save a child's life !

This sounds like a great way to help a worthy cause and is much more fun than throwing a pound in a charity collection box. I've been trying to decide which colour would best represent my life - the greeny-black of baby's first poo or the browny-green of indelible grass stains on the knees of brand new jeans ? Or maybe I could rename magnolia "regurgitated milk" and snigger every time people use it to repaint their walls ! Read on for more info :


PUBLIC GIVEN CHANCE TO OWN A COLOUR

Dulux has teamed up with children’s charity UNICEF to give people the chance to ‘own’ a colour for £1

The paint brand is offering people the opportunity to buy from a selection of 16.7 million colours – the number the average computer, smartphone and tablet can display – in an effort to raise £16.7million.


People who purchase a colour are able to rename it and have it displayed on a dedicated Dulux microsite. All money raised will go directly to the children’s charity UNICEF.

Matt Pullen, UK Marketing Director, from Dulux comments:

“Dulux has a mission of 'adding Colour to People's Lives' and is closely aligned to the vision of Own a Colour, which will harness the power of colour to have a positive impact on saving lives of children.”

Celebrities who already Own A Colour include Jemima Khan (CFC Blue), Duncan Bannatyne (Scottish Saltire Blue) and Sir Roger Moore (Swedish Blue).


To Own A Colour visit: http://www.ownacolour.com/  

 
Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Thursday, 29 September 2011

CHELSEA FC’S NEW INTERACTIVE CLUB MUSEUM

Exciting news for footie fans, especially those who support Chelsea, but even I like the sound of some of the exhibits and I'm not the slightest bit interested in the game ! Watch the video for a brief presentation and scroll down for more information on the new interactive museum.


video

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Chelsea Football Club recently launched the spectacular new Chelsea Museum, an exciting must-see attraction for all football and sports fans. As the largest football museum in London, the 670sqm space combines the best mix of old and new by using state-of-the-art technology and innovation to offer visitors of all ages an unrivalled interactive experience.

Whether a Chelsea fan or not, the museum has something for everyone. Located onsite, behind the legendary football stadium at Stamford Bridge, the Chelsea Museum brings the Premier League club’s past to life through a combination of audio visual shows and interactive tours. There are 16 different zones to keep visitors entertained for hours ranging from photo opportunities with some of Chelsea’s big players through the use of green screen technology to how a dog bite led to the formation of Chelsea Football Club.


Kids will enjoy showing off their football skills at the shooting gallery, where they’ll receive a video introduction and tutorial from a member of the Chelsea Academy before demonstrating whether they’re the next Didier Drogba in the making. Or for the less active participant, a 40-person seated theatre shows a match day from a fan’s perspective, documenting everything from the game preparation outside the ground to the atmosphere and goal scoring reaction within.


Ahead of the Chelsea museum opening, fans were also invited to shape the content of some of its exhibits. Over 2,000 fans voted on two of the museum’s major attractions, providing valuable input on what they’d like to see form part of the exhibits. ‘The Hall of Fame’ showcases a montage of videos, images and memorabilia of the club’s most popular past players, with striker Gianfranco Zola attracting the highest number of votes, while ‘The Greatest Games’ highlights video footage of the top non-trophy moments from Chelsea Football Club’s illustrious history.

 
As well as a fascinating collection of Chelsea-related memorabilia, the museum houses some of the most iconic images from the club’s history, marking the traditions, triumphs, sights and sounds that have contributed to one of the most fascinating stories in football. It’s a must-visit destination for sports enthusiasts of all ages.



Sarah Bagg, Stadium Tours & Museums Manager at Chelsea said: “The Chelsea museum offers something for everyone. Packed full of interactive exhibits the whole family will enjoy, it’s the perfect day out for any sports enthusiast or avid Chelsea supporter. Our fans are part of the success of the club so it was important for us to involve them in the selection of some of the attractions. With their input, we’re sure that visitors of all ages to Stamford Bridge will enjoy getting hands-on with the exhibits and learning about the beautiful game.”



Tickets for the Chelsea Museum are £10 adults, £8 children (under 16 years), £32 family (two adults, two children) and £9 concessions. A £2 pre-booking discount applies for all tickets purchased in advance online.

 
For further information please visit www.chelseafc.com/museum .
 
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See, this is why Madhouse Daddy Mike can't wait for Pierre to get a bit bigger - he's had enough of fairies and princesses !
 
Watch this space for a competition coming soon right here on the blog where you will be able to win tickets to the museum.
 
Other blogposts you may be interested in :
 

Help Tesco Baby break the record for most parents trained online in first aid !


As I told you a while back (in this blogpost here), for this year’s BabySafe, Tesco Baby & Toddler Club created a series of free videos online to offer parents basic first aid training with experts from the British Red Cross. This came off the back of some new research that revealed that 72% of parents wouldn’t feel confident in administering first aid.

They would love to break the record for most parents trained online and are calling as many parents as possible to join them on Monday 3rd October for their first ever webinar, where experts from the British Red Cross will show you what to do if your child is unconscious (breathing / not breathing) or choking.

Visit the BabySafe page on their Care & Share website (www.tesco-baby.com/babysafe) on Monday and recruit as many friends and family as you can to help them break this record, but more importantly to get parents better trained for giving emergency first aid to their children.

for more information : www.tesco-baby.com/babysafe

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

New website - www.tesco-baby.com

Provamel Botanical Yogurts Cooking Challenge #1 : Autumnal Fruit Pavlova


A little while ago, I was contacted by the lovely people at Provamel who threw down the gauntlet and challenged me to try out a couple of recipes using their Botanical Yogurts. Having reviewed Provamel yogurts in the past (here) and knowing that they have a range of interesting flavours, I said I'd love to have a go - then panicked about not being able to rise to the challenge and make the perfect meringue !

Well, shortly afterwards, they kindly arranged for all the ingredients to be delivered. I loved discovering a brand new ingredient that I'd never tried before : cardamom pods.


Right, time to have a good look at the recipe then ! This is the professional photo of what it's supposed to look like - eeeek !


And the recipe :


Autumnal Fruit Pavlova with Provamel Apple and Green Tea Yogurt


Preparation Time: 2 hrs

Cooking Time: 1 ½ hrs

Serves: 6

Ingredients:

350g Provamel Apple and Green Tea Yogurt
4 egg whites
150g caster sugar
140g light brown muscovado sugar (90g for the pavlova and 50g for caramelising fruit)
1 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp corn flour
4 plums
1 pear, sliced
120g blackberries
30g toasted hazelnuts, chopped
60g soya margarine

Method:

Pre-heat oven to 120 ºC/250 ºF/Gas Mark ½



- Using a large, clean mixing bowl and an electric hand whisk; whisk the egg whites until forming soft peaks. Turn the whisk up to top speed and gradually add in the sugars, a tablespoon at a time, until all incorporated. Gently fold in the corn flour and white wine vinegar.

- Spoon the mixture on to a flat baking tray lined with baking parchment, making a circular shape about 25 cm across.

- Bake in the oven for 1 ½ hrs. Turn the oven off but leave the meringue in for at least 2 hrs or overnight with the door shut - this allows the meringue to dry out properly.

- Cut the plums in half and remove the stones. Place on a baking tray along with the sliced pear, and sprinkle with the remaining 50g muscovado sugar and dot with the soya margarine before placing under a hot grill for 5-10 mins until sticky and soft.

- Top the pavlova base with the Provamel Apple and Green Tea Yogurt and top with the plums, pears, blackberries and toasted hazelnuts.

And here's our version :


I have to say, I even impressed myself ! We don't have an electric whisk so we had to beat the egg whites by hand, which I was worried wouldn't work so well.


Sophie rose to the challenge and said she was really looking forward to doing some "grown-up cooking", rather than the kid-friendly baking kits I often use in the kitchen with the girls. She did really well.



We didn't have any baking parchment either so I used foil instead. The only thing that "went wrong" was that the kids couldn't wait to eat it so it only got 2 hours in the oven to dry out, rather than leaving it overnight as I originally planned. This meant that it actually stayed fluffy, gooey and almost molten in the middle, but we decided this was actually a good thing as it made it into a really moist, indulgent dessert. Sophie said she preferred it to normal meringues that are too dry. Phew, got away with that one then !


Once it's topped with yogurt, sticky baked fruit and hazelnuts, it really looks the business. Tastewise, it got a huge thumbs up all round. Definitely a dessert with wow-factor that is perfect for finishing off a dinner party meal.


You know you've got a really good recipe when you can tweak it to suit your own tastes and needs and this one is perfect for this. We discovered that Jordan's Country Crisp clusters make a delicious alternative (or addition) to the toasted hazelnuts.


As a busy mum, I will also be tempted to redo this recipe as an instant dessert, using ready-made meringue nests topped with yogurt and the baked fruit. Which is very similar to the delicious-sounding Eton Mess recipe which is my second challenge, so watch this space at the weekend to see how that goes. (It'll be a piece of cake after the Pavlova, that's for sure !)


for more information and recipes : http://www.provamel.co.uk/

Other blogposts you may be interested in :


Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Giveaway #123 - Dance & Sparkle Ballerina Dora and a Nick Jr Goodie Bag - closed - winner @picklepie35


I told you earlier (here) about a special Dora the Explorer Ballet adventure about to air on Nick Jr and I have the perfect prize for little Dora fans to mark the occasion.

"Dora is ready for her big performance at the dance recital! She talks and sings and features poseable arms & legs! Twinkling lights and a special dress really make Dora sparkle & shine on stage!”

But that's not all ! One lucky blog follower will win not just the Dance & Sparkle Ballerina Dora but also a Nick Jr Goodie Bag. That'll be one less Christmas present to buy !


To be in with the chance of winning, just do the following two things :


(1) follow my blog with Google Friends Connect (over on the side bar on the right)



(2) leave me a comment in the comments box with a way of contacting you (twitter name or email). If I don't hear back from you within a week, I'll have to pick another winner.

Bonus entries :

You can do any or all of the following for bonus entries - just make sure you leave me one comment per entry so that they're all counted !

(1) I love reading your comments so leave me some extra comments on my other blogposts (maximum 5 - other giveaways don't count !) and I'll give you a bonus entry for each one. Just remember to leave me a comment here each time to tell me you've done so.


(2) Follow me on twitter (@cherylp59) and tweet about my comp - this is now dead easy if you click on the tweet button on the right-hand side bar. Feel free to shorten if necessary, or you can make up your own tweet. Make sure you copy in @cherylp59 so I can track this.

(3) Subscribe to my blog by email (near the top of the right-hand sidebar) so that all the new posts pop into your inbox in a handy digest every morning


(4) I've created a facebook page for Madhouse Family Reviews so I'd love for you to become a follower on there too - http://www.facebook.com/pages/Madhouse-Family-Reviews/144910798898626


UK only. Closing date : 15/10/11

Other current giveaways you may be interested in :




Calling all Dora The Explorer Fans ! Special Dora Ballet Adventure on the 30th September

As a Nick Jr Ambassador, I'm pleased to be able to give you a heads up that there is going to be a Dora special going out on Nick Jr. on the 30th September at 4.00pm and also tell you that there will be a fab giveaway coming up tonight right here on my blog that is perfect for little Dora fans. :)


Break out your dancing shoes because Dora the Explorer’s dance class is having a big show! In this brand new special Dora Ballet Adventure, Dora is opening the ballet show and she can’t wait for her family to see her perform. She just needs her dance slippers, but by mistake the Delivery Duck has brought scuba flippers instead! The show can’t start without the slippers. Can Boots help Dora find a pair of dance slippers and save the show?

To celebrate this special there are a number of repeats throughout the week, so fans of Dora won’t miss out on the show. Here is the full line-up:

Friday 30th Sept at 4pm and 6pm
Saturday 1st October 10.30am and 5pm
Sunday 2nd October at 1pm
Monday 3rd Oct – 8.30am and 4.30pm
Tuesday 4th Oct – 10.00am
Wednesday 5th Oct – 2pm
Thursday 6th Oct – no show
Friday 7th October – 4.30pm

If you want some lovely activities for keeping your little Dora fans occupied, make sure you check out the links below :





Also look out for a fabulous Dora the Explorer giveaway coming right up here on my blog.

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Christmas on a Budget ? 15 Crafty Christmas Makes from RusticAngels.co.uk


This year most of us will be doing Christmas on a budget, so the team at Rustic Angels shabby chic, vintage and retro home accessories, have come up with some gorgeous gifts to make yourself that will save you a fortune, be fun to create and a joy to receive!


The Angels have enthusiastically embraced the concept of upcycling - turning old or unwanted everyday objects into something more beautiful. Every week from September until Christmas, they are posting step-by-step details of a new "Christmas Make" on the Rustic Angels Blog, providing inspiration to anyone wanting to make pretty, unique and thoughtful gifts for their family and friends.


So far the Christmas Makes they have posted include:



Decorative Coasters - Transforming old tiles and fabric into a pretty and practical home accessory.


1950's Style Retro Headbands - Simple steps to creating a cute accessory for your retro look!


Gentle Oatmeal Body Scrub - Bathroom luxury straight from the larder!


Vintage Cake Stand - Jumble sale crockery becomes the hottest home style trend.



And coming next…



Sundae dish candles - smell wonderful, and look good enough to eat!



There will be 15 Christmas Makes in total, posted weekly at: www.rusticangels.co.uk/blog-home  plus a beautiful range of ready made Christmas gifts and decorations for those of you who aren't so crafty!

For beautiful vintage, retro and French country home accessories and ideas for your home, visit www.rusticangels.co.uk.
 
for more information on the Christmas projects : http://www.rusticangels.co.uk/15-christmas-gifts-to-make.html
 
Other blogposts you may be interested in :
 

Natural Wisdom Organic Skincare Announce A Monthly Giveaway

News of a new monthly competition for all you competition fanatics who love natural skincare. Even better is, you only have to sign up for their newsletter for automatic entry each time. Good luck !

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Natural Wisdom Organic Skincare have one of their exquisite Try Me In Miniature Collection Sets to give away every month, containing all six of their Rosehip and Pomegranate antioxidant facial products.


A small but perfect introduction to their Organic Skincare Collection and featuring their Facial Cream Cleanser (6mls), Hydrating Antioxidant Toner (6mls), Intensive Daytime Moisturiser (6mls), Night Time Renewal Cream (6mls), Antioxidant Treatment Oil (2.5mls) and their Antioxidant Skin Survival Balm (5mls).


Natural Wisdom is a new boutique organic skincare company, certified organic with the Soil Association. Their products are all cold processed and handmade from premium organic ingredients.  No fillers. No nonsense. No compromise.


All you need to do to be automatically included in their monthly prize draw is subscribe to their newsletter available through their website. http://www.naturalwisdom.co.uk/

Other blogposts you may be interested in :

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Penn State Gammon & Mustard Pretzels review


You can tell by the look on Sophie's face that she was over the moon when we received some Penn State pretzels to review. We've already reviewed a selection of their snacks in the past (here and here) but this time, we tried out their Gammon & Mustard Pretzels for the first time.

Before trying their Sour Cream & Chive Pretzels a few months ago, I wasn't a huge fan of pretzels, having only eaten plain ones that I found bland and tasteless. The Penn State pretzels however pack as much punch as crisps in the flavour department and they're not too salty either.

The Gammon & Mustard flavour reminds me a bit of smoky bacon flavoured crisps, but they seem lighter and less greasy than crisps. They have the perfect crunchy texture and the fact that they are baked rather than fried means that they're a relatively guilt-free snack, containing 131 calories for a 30g serving. The girls weren't overly keen because of the mustard background taste that they said was hot, but I didn't detect any heat at all - just a meaty flavour.

They're nice but I still prefer the Sour Cream & Chive Pretzels because their flavour seems more intense and long-lasting. The Gammon & Mustard variety is a limited edition, so I'm keen to see what other flavour combinations they have up their sleeve (including the chocolate coated pretzels, the very idea of which still makes me wrinkle my nose, but I'm willing to be proved wrong !).

star rating : 4/5

RRP : £1.29 for 175g


Other reviews you may be interested in :

Did You Know Heinz Beans Count Towards Your 5-a-day ?

We all know how important it is to get your kids (not to mention the grown-ups) eating their five recommended daily portions of fruit and veg, but let's face it - sometimes when you dash in from work, tired, with hungry kids and a near empty fridge, it all seems quite complicated ! I thought this report from Heinz made interesting, not to mention reassuring, reading.

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Are You Getting Enough of the Good Stuff?

New research from Heinz Beanz shows that only 21% of the nation eat their five-a-day

- A quarter of women claim it’s too expensive to eat five-a-day -

- 52% say it’s too difficult -

- 1 in 5 are unaware they need to eat five portions of fruit and veg a day -

- One third don’t realise that tinned fruit and veg can provide one of your five-a-day -

- Children snack on sweet treats up to five times a week -


We’re all urged to eat our five daily portions of fruit and vegetables, however, shocking new research from the nation’s favourite beans brand, Heinz, has today revealed that when it comes to healthy eating we’re just not getting enough of the good stuff.


Despite 79% of the nation knowing we need to reach the target five-a-day, only a paltry 21% say they actually manage to, with the average person eating just three portions each day. More worryingly, on the 20th anniversary of the five-a-day message, one in five Brits say they don’t even realise they need to eat five portions of fruit and veg per day!


When it comes to what’s holding us back it seems busy lives and tighter purse strings have had an impact on our diet with the research showing:


Over half (52%) claim it’s not that easy to eat five-a-day and is too difficult to plan in advance

A quarter of women claim that it’s too expensive to eat five portions of fruit and veg each day

42% of men who don’t get their five-a-day claim they don’t because they never think about it


Over half of parents (55%) believe that when it comes to your five-a-day the portions of fruit and veg don’t have to be different, when in fact it is recommended that we eat a mixture of fruit and vegetables to achieve the daily guideline.


Only half of those questioned were aware that baked beans can count as one portion. In fact just three tablespoons of Heinz Beanz counts towards your five a day – good news for the 31% who didn’t even realize that tinned fruit and veg can count!



Shockingly, one tenth of the nation believe that carrot cake counts towards their five-a-day, showing that some greedy Brits think they really can have their cake and eat it! However despite the confusion over what counts as a portion, one in five correctly identified an adult portion of fruit or veg as around 80g.



Last but not least, when questioned about what counts as one of our five-a-day, men are the most clueless, with nearly half (46%) incorrectly identifying potatoes as counting towards the daily allowance. And the widespread confusion doesn’t stop there, with those surveyed incorrectly identifying the below as counting as one of their five-a-day:

Cereal (9%)
Rice (9%)
Chips (7%)
Carrot Cake (5%)
Pasta (4%)


The younger generation is the worst at getting their five-a-day with the majority of 16-24 year olds only eating half their recommended daily intake. Perhaps not surprising as the research also revealed that when it comes to keeping our kids healthy we’re a nation of secret snackers, with children snacking on sweet and savory treats an average of five times a week.



Leading nutritionist, Dr Juliet Gray, says, “The new survey from Heinz shows that although the majority of people are aware of needing to eat more fruit and veg, only one in five say that they actually make it to their five-a-day. What's particularly worrying is that it's the younger people who fare worst. Half of those questioned thought eating five-a-day was difficult because of advance planning and wastage, but if you keep the freezer and store cupboard well stocked then you can always have some vegetables to go with a meal – that's where baked beans can really score, especially as they are popular with children. It's also really important in these cash-strapped times to remind people that you don't have to eat what can be expensive fresh fruits and veg – frozen, dried and canned varieties are all nutritious and count towards the five, and can make it easier to juggle a tight household budget.”



Paula Jordan, Heinz Beanz Marketing Director, comments: “As a nation we really need to brush up on our knowledge when it comes to getting our five-a-day. The findings from Heinz show that due to hectic lives and higher costs of living, the majority of us are not eating enough fruit and veg. We want to remind busy Brits of the health benefits of baked beans and show the nation that getting your five-a-day needn’t be that hard – just three tablespoons of Heinz Beanz count as one of your daily portions.”



The findings come as Heinz have redesigned their iconic Heinz Beanz label to reassure the nation that the beans we all know and love are positively healthy too. Helping drive home the five-a-day message the new cans feature clear labeling that mean the health benefits of Heinz Beanz have never been easier to understand.

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Today sees Hallmark's amazing 10,000 free cards giveaway !

Hopefully, if my scheduled post has worked properly, you'll be reading this just after 9am and will now be able to scuttle off and grab yourself a free card. You do have to pay for postage but it's still a fabulous giveaway. Good luck and let me know if you get in quick enough. It's first come first served and once they've gone, they've gone !

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HALLMARK CELEBRATES ITS BIRTHDAY WITH A MASSIVE FREE CARD GIVE AWAY!


Here at Hallmark, we’re celebrating the third birthday of our online personalised card service in style by giving away another staggering 10,000 free cards!


For today only, you’ll be able to claim your free card simply by visiting http://www.hallmark.co.uk/  and entering voucher code FREECARD2011 at checkout. You can then show someone you care and have fun creating your own truly unique card, complete with images, personal message and bespoke design.


We’ve had a great third year here at http://www.hallmark.co.uk/  and we wanted to celebrate it with you guys by giving youeach a free card. This is the third year we have given 10,000 cards away for our birthday and it’s set to be another quick sell out. We plan to run this very special offer for our birthday only so do not miss out and head over to our website now!


Your free personalised card can be posted immediately, sent either directly back to you (so that you can write a handwritten message in it as well) OR send it direct to the person receiving it at a date of your choice, up to one year in advance.

So this is a huge thank you from all of us at Hallmark.

Terms and conditions of the offer

• The offer is restricted to one card free per account and applicable to any sized card.


• The voucher must be used to redeem this offer and POSTAGE IS NOT FREE. The redeemer must pay postage on their card.


• The offer is limited to the first 10,000 vouchers redeemed or until midnight on the 27th September 2011 (UK TIME) whichever comes first.

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Baking recipes from Leisure and Jo Pratt



These recipes from chef Jo Pratt have been created with the Leisure Range 90 oven in mind, but can just as easily be re-created in a standard oven. If you'd like to see videos of each recipe, click through to http://www.leisurecp.co.uk/recipes/index.htm or watch the ones embedded in the blogpost. Happy cooking (and eating !).

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TOMATO & ASPARAGUS RICOTTA TART

Serves 4-6

10 spears of asparagus

375g ready-rolled puff pastry

250g ricotta cheese

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

50g Parmesan cheese, grated

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

a large bunch of basil leaves, finely shredded, plus extra for garnish

4-5 ripe tomatoes, quartered

olive oil



Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC/fan 180ºC fan oven/gas 6.



Place the pastry on to a lightly oiled baking tray and prick several times with a fork.



Mix together the ricotta, eggs, half of the parmesan, garlic, basil and seasoning and beat until smooth. Spread over the pastry base, leaving about a 2cm border.



Trim or snap the tougher woody ends from the asparagus, then lay, with the tomatoes on top of the ricotta, pressing down gently. Season lightly, scatter with the remaining parmesan and drizzle over a little olive oil.



Bake for 25-30 minutes until the filling has set and the pastry is golden. Serve warm or at room temperature cut into pieces.


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FISH PIE WITH CRUNCHY TOPPING

Serves 6

For the filling:

75g butter

1 onion, chopped

1 bay leaf

50g flour

150ml white wine

200ml milk

600g salmon fillet, cut into 3cm cubes

200g raw tiger prawns

200g scallops (optional, the equivalent weight of salmon can be used)

3 eggs, hard boiled and chopped

2 tbsp chopped dill

For the crumble topping:

1 ciabatta loaf

50g finely grated parmesan cheese

3 tbsp olive oil

small bunch of parsley



Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC/fan 180ºC fan oven/gas 6.



Melt the butter in a large saucepan and gently sauté the onion with the bay leaf until the onion is softened but not coloured. Stir in the flour for about 30 seconds before gradually adding the wine, stirring to prevent any floury lumps, before doing the same with the milk. Bring to a simmer and cook for a few minutes until you have a thick sauce.



Stir in the salmon, prawns and scallops (if using) and return to the simmer. Cook for a few minutes, until the prawns are pink, before adding the eggs, dill, salt and pepper. Spoon into a large ovenproof dish and keep to one side.



To make the topping, tear the ciabatta into pieces and place in a food processor. Blitz to a rough crumb. Add the parmesan, olive oil and parsley, and then briefly blitz to combine.



When you are ready to cook the pie, scatter the topping over the top of the creamy fish sauce and place in the pre-heated oven for 30-40 minutes (or slightly longer if you are cooking the filling from chilled) until the topping is golden and the filling is bubbling at the edges.


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SAVOURY SAUSAGE & TOMATO BREAD & BUTTER PUDDING

Serves 4

6-8 good quality sausages, of whatever flavour you prefer

9 medium slices of white bread

40g butter, at room temperature

4 tbsp bought caramelised onions/ onion relish

12-16 cherry tomatoes

5 large eggs

200ml double cream

1 tbsp English mustard powder

1 tsp dried thyme

100g mature cheddar, grated



You will also need a 1.5-1.8 litre baking dish.



First of all you need to cook the sausages either in the oven, grill or frying pan. Once cooked, and cool enough to handle, slice into roughly 1 cm pieces.



Butter the bread, then cut each piece diagonally in half. Spread the caramelised onions on the bottom of the buttered dish. Arrange the bread in the dish, in overlapping layers, adding slices of the sausages and tomatoes in between the layers.



In a large bowl beat together the eggs and then mix in the cream, mustard powder, thyme and half of the cheese. Season with salt and pepper, then slowly pour this over the bread, pressing down so the slices are submerged. Scatter over the remaining cheese, and leave to stand for about 10 minutes, for the mixture to soak into the bread.



Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/fan 160ºC fan oven/gas 4.



Place on a baking tray and then put into the oven for 30-40 minutes until the top is golden and the eggs are set when you press the centre of the dish.



Serve hot with a vegetable of your choice.


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STRAWBERRY & VANILLA CREAM SPONGE

For the sponge:

knob of butter, melted

225g butter, at room temperature

225g caster sugar

4 large free-range eggs

225g self-raising flour, sifted, plus 1 tbsp extra for dusting the tins

To serve:

250-275ml double cream, lightly whipped

1 vanilla pod

2 tbsp good quality strawberry jam

150-200g fresh strawberries, stalk remove and halved or quartered

2 tbsp sieved icing sugar, plus extra for dusting the finish cake



You will also need 2 x 15cm-17.5cm cake tins



Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/fan 160ºC fan oven/gas 4.



First of all, to prepare the tins brush inside with the melted butter. Place a circle of greaseproof paper in the base of both tins, then coat the inside edges with a dusting of flour.



Place the butter and caster sugar in a bowl and beat well until light, creamy and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, with a spoonful of flour with each egg, to prevent the mixture from curdling, the gently mix in the remaining flour.



Divide the mixture evenly between the tins. Spread over the surface with a palate knife or spatula and place in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cakes spring back when pressed gently with a finger and are pale golden in colour.



Remove from the oven and take them out of the tins after about 5-10 minutes. Place them on a wire rack to cool completely (for about half an hour).



While the cakes are cooling, place the cream in a bowl. Split the vanilla pod, and scrape out the seeds into the cream. Add the icing sugar and whip to form soft peaks.



Once the cake is cool, spread the jam on the surface of one sponge, and the cream on the other. Sit the strawberries on top of the cream, and place the strawberry jam sponge on top, pressing lightly to hold in place.



Dust the top of the cake with icing sugar and serve.


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PECAN PIE

Serves 8

For the pastry

150g plain flour

1 tablespoon caster sugar

a pinch of salt

100g unsalted butter, chilled and cut into cubes

For the filling

250g pecan halves

3 large eggs, beaten

125g golden syrup

175g soft brown sugar

3 tablespoons whisky or orange juice

40g unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract


you will also need a 23 to 24cm loose–bottomed tart tin



First of all, you will need to make the pastry. Place the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor or mixing bowl and blitz or rub in the butter until it resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add 2 tablespoons of cold water and bind until it just comes together, adding a little more water if it is needed. Knead very lightly on a floured surface to form a smooth dough. Roll out and line the tart tin. Prick the base several times with a fork and chill in the fridge for about 20 to 30 minutes.



Preheat the oven to 200ºC/fan 180ºC fan oven/gas 6.



Line the chilled pastry case with a piece of greaseproof paper and fill with a layer of baking beans or rice. Cook for 15 minutes. Remove the paper, brush the base with a little of the beaten egg and cook for a further 5 minutes until the pastry is just becoming golden.



During the last 5 minutes of cooking the pastry, spread the pecan nuts on baking tray and toast them in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove and leave to cool slightly.



Reduce the oven temperature to 160ºC/fan 140ºC/gas 2–3.



Roughly chop half the pecans and mix with all the rest of the filling ingredients, including the whole pecans. Pour and spread into the pastry case. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the centre is just set.



Serve warm with the extra-thick cream, clotted cream or ice cream, or cold with pouring cream.

PS…

If you don’t have time or prefer not to make your own pastry, use about 300g bought shortcrust pastry and sprinkle over 1-2 tablespoons of caster sugar while you roll it out to add a little sweetness.


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BLUEBERRY MUFFINS

Makes 12

250ml milk

50ml vegetable oil

½ tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg, lightly beaten

75g caster sugar

250g plain flour

3 tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt

200g blueberries


Streusel topping:

25g plain flour

2 tbsp Demerara sugar

15g cold butter



you will also need a 12 hole muffin tin lined with 12 muffin cases


Pre-heat the oven to 200ºC/fan 180ºC fan oven/gas 6.



First of all, you need to prepare the streusel topping by rubbing together the flour, Demerara and butter until you have a crumble consistency.



To make the muffins mix together the wet ingredients (milk, oil, vanilla extract and beaten egg).



Add the sugar, flour, baking powder and salt. Mix briefly, just enough to moisten the flour, giving you a lumpy batter. Keeping it slightly lumpy will ensure lighter muffins once cooked. Fold in the blueberries and then divide the mixture between the 12 muffin cases.



Scatter the streusel mixture over the top of each muffin and then place in the oven to cook for 20-25 minutes until they are golden. Once cooked, cool slightly before leaving to cool further on a wire rack.


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for more information : http://www.leisurecp.co.uk/recipes/index.htm

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